Travel: Exploring England's picturesque county Cornwall

Nov 11, 2018, 08:11 IST | Hemal Ashar

Cornwall, a county in South West England in the United Kingdom, where the outdoorsy vibe meets artsy elan with ease

Travel: Exploring England's picturesque county Cornwall
St Michael's Mount, the small tidal island in Cornwall

Bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea and to the south by the English Channel, the idyll of Cornwall, a county in South West England in the United Kingdom, can be most assuring, after the hurly-burly of London.

It's a little over four hours from the capital city by rail - usually a comfortable ride, but sometimes made unpredictable by the weather. Travelling with a group of international journalists, courtesy VisitBritain, from Paddington station (London) to Falmouth -the first stop on a trip known as the 'South West Coast Path' - we began with quick introductions. And, we were off to catch the train to Cornwall.

Open kitchen at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen
Open kitchen at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen

Drawing Ms Claire
As the train left Paddington, the hurly burly of London slipped away. Water activities like kayaking and coasteering stood cancelled because of the rough seas and impending storm. The high tourist season here is from July to early September, and mid-October, when we visited, was signal that the buzz would move to the warmer and kinder indoors.

One of the big draws this season then is the artsy vibe that runs through the seaside town of St Ives. St Ives is a magnet for artists because of, "its unique light," said Stephen Dove, drawing tutor at the St Ives School of Painting, as we began a two-hour session at the studio. We were taught to sketch the human figure at a workshop there. 'Claire' our black swimsuit shod model posed as we sketched her tentatively, and tutor Dove was a motivator to us nervous Nellies with knees of jelly. As we put pencil to paper, propped up on easels that looked intimidating, Dove was exhorting us, "take a step back [literally] and look at your work periodically; you will see what needs attention. Art is not just about looking at the figure you are drawing, look at the empty spaces around you."

Model Claire and teacher Stephen Dove at the St Ives School of Painting
Model Claire and teacher Stephen Dove at the St Ives School of Painting

That Claire needed a glass of wine after her posing, may have said something about how we drew her. Or may be not. Claire, the consummate professional won't share. Dove said that the school now sees a steady influx of amateurs and first-timers, besides of course, established artists. "It is good to know that people are coming in to do something else besides television or Internet surfing."

The school, which is 80 years old, has classes for adults, children and students of all levels, and has a full up November calendar. Art is central to St Ives - it houses the iconic Tate gallery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. When we visited, a staffer was beside herself with excitement as the gallery was getting a much bigger lift. "That means we can get in many more works, bigger ones more easily," she said. On an afternoon, spending time looking (hopefully) suitably educated about art, it is the view outside the gallery from the large windows of the Tate, which is spellbinding.

Being carried off the boat as the water rises from St Michael's Mount
Being carried off the boat as the water rises from St Michael's Mount

Terra firma beckons
Land activities took precedence - cyclists, joggers and walkers dot the landscape. Stores everywhere sold outdoorsy, hiking gear and the salesman at the Mountain Warehouse (store) took deep interest in the walking shoes this reporter bought, asking for which hike exactly, and "for how long will you be hiking?"

Walking trails everywhere are well-marked out, with signs warning walkers to stay away from cliff edges, marked ominously as "death zones". We took a three-hour hike with local experts Richard Cocking and Steve Church from the South West Coast Path, from Bottalack to Cape Cornwall. There were taxis after 40 minutes, "in case any of us, wimp out," the guides teased. Nobody did. The Cornish pasty lunch, traditionally the food of Cornish tin miners, and tea of scones with jam and clotted cream, was well-digested at the end of the hike, where we were all declared "super fit".

Map

You are at the weather's mercy in Cornwall. At St Michael's Mount (an island) linked to the town of Marizion, our history lesson was cut short. Guide Evelina Andrews was informed that the tide was coming in and we would be marooned soon. We caught the last boat leaving for land and two from our group had to be carried out of the boat (fireman's lift) as the water had risen and the boat could not be brought to shore.

Oliver Twist
In Newquay, surfers' paradise, a visit to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant was outstanding. Just a piece of bread dipped in olive oil (with its peppery kick) was reason enough to understand why Oliver has the gigantic reputation in global gastronomy. Departing for London the day after, Cornwall burnt bright in the mind's eye with waves that can rise as high as one storied homes, and the caw of swooping seagulls through a blue-black sky.

Things to do
* If you travel for culture, adventure, food or relaxation, Cornwall has a mix of everything. The VisitBritain (visitbritain.com) site gives you an extensive checklist.
* The St Ives School for Painting, outlines courses and prices. For more details, visit: schoolofpainting.co.uk

Getting there
* Flight tickets to London range between Rs 40,000 and Rs 60,000. A train ticket from London to Cornwall costs Rs 2,500 upwards.

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